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Neuroscience For Kids

Going Batty in Houston - Rabies on the Rise
August 22, 2006

Earlier this year in Houston, Texas, a bat flew into the home of 16-year-old Zach Jones while he was asleep. Zach woke up when he felt the bat brush against his face. After the bat was caught and released outside, Zach thought everything was fine. About a month after the bat incident, Zach felt sick and went to the hospital. On May 12, he died...of rabies. Zach is the only person known to have died of rabies in the United States in 2006.

Rabies is a disease caused by a virus that attacks cells of the nervous system. If rabies is not treated, it is usually fatal.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the number of bats around Houston grew after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In 2006, experts have found 57 bats around the area that have tested positive for rabies; only 28 bats tested positive in all of 2005.

How Can Rabies Be Prevented?

  1. Stay away from wild animals: if you go on hikes in the woods, do not pet or feed any animals you meet. Remember, bites and scratches can transmit rabies.
  2. Stay away from stray animals: you do not know if these animals have been vaccinated against rabies.
  3. Discourage pests that may carry rabies: cover your trash cans and don't leave pet food outside for wild animals to get.
  4. Make sure your pets are vaccinated against rabies: effective vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, cattle and sheep. The number of cases of animal rabies in pets and domesticated animals has been reduced since the 1950s when vaccination of these types of animals started. Rabies in wild animals is still high.
  5. Get yourself vaccinated: if you will be working or traveling in an area where you may encounter rabid animals (e.g., a veterinary office, wilderness, virus laboratory), you might consider getting vaccinated.
  6. Call the animal control office: if you see an animal behaving strangely.

References and more information:

  1. Hart, L., After Rabies Death, Dark Days for Bats, Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2006.
  2. Rabies - Neuroscience for Kids

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